Tag: life

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5, ESV

 

Let’s face it. Some days are just plain hard.

Sometimes unexpected difficulties arise that throw us completely for a loop. Other times we struggle with challenges that persist in spite of our best efforts to overcome. Some of us may be going through financial troubles, health problems, relationship issues, stress in the workplace, emotional upheavals…  There are so many causes for the hard days!

When you are having a hard day and find yourself struggling, do not get discouraged! It is clear from quite a few of the psalms he wrote that King David likewise struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed with his circumstances. In Psalm 43:5, he wrote: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

He recognized his emotional state, his distress, his confusion. That is the first step towards overcoming the hard days and the emotional baggage that comes with them. We first must recognize our situation and put it into proper prospective. No matter what others might say, it is okay to feel the way you are feeling. Your feelings are valid.

But notice how, after identifying his problem, he does not linger on his turmoil? He continues: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” This is the second step in overcoming the hard days: acknowledging our need for God. When we are at our lowest point, when we feel the furthest from the Lord, when we feel hopeless, when we feel overwhelmed… that is when we need Him the most!

Sometimes all it takes is the simple reminder of these three words: Hope in God.

Friend, no matter what you are going through today, this week, this year, it is my earnest and heartfelt prayer that you always hope in God. May you, too, find exceeding joy and “shall again praise him”.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” — Jeremiah 1:4-5, ESV

The time for our second child to be born is quickly approaching, and at almost 35 weeks, I must admit that this time I am feeling very ready — physically, mentally, emotionally ready. Every day is a bit of a struggle to juggle the late pregnancy symptoms with daily routines and obligations, and I feel huge, uncomfortable, tired, and sore. (Other mothers out there probably understand!)

But this is also an exciting time. Eager anticipation of a new life, a new unique individual, a new precious child of God, and all of the potential he has. (Or she! But we are having another boy.) I cannot wait to see my little son’s face and hold him in my arms. I am so excited to be able to watch the relationship between our older son and the new baby bud and grow with time.

So with my mind filled with such expectations, I was reminded of the conversation between the Lord and Jeremiah when he was called to become a prophet of Israel. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah and said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” It is always a good thing to remind ourselves that we are not an accident. God formed each and every one of us Himself and knew us before we were even born!

That is how precious we are to Him!

But the Lord does not stop there. Oh, no. He continues: “…and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet…” I truly believe that the Lord has special plans for each one of us. Some may refer to it as a special calling, and it is connected with spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31) But we need to be living our lives inline with His will and His Word if we are to be ready when He calls us or opens up the way to the plan/opportunity.

Just as Jeremiah was appointed by the Lord as His prophet, you and I have a special purpose, a unique calling, that He is waiting for us to embrace. Whether you are called to be a missionary afar or near, a pastor or evangelist or Bible worker, a teacher or greeter or deacon at your local church, a volunteer at the community soup kitchen or food pantry, a light reflecting Christ in your workplace or at the grocery store, or a godly role model for your children, remember that the Lord knows you, has appointed you to His purpose — His ambassador to a dying world! (2 Corinthians 5:20) — and He has given you the gifts that you will need to fulfill it.

So this new year, I challenge us all to spend some extra time in prayer with the Lord, asking for His guidance in showing each of us His purpose for our lives, our calling, and His strength and wisdom to be able to fulfill it.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

‘And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”‘ — Luke 2:10-14, ESV

This time of year can get busy with festive parties, decorating, various holiday activities, rushing to secure presents for loved ones, enjoying traditions, and visiting family and friends. To some it might even be stressful as you try to balance all of these extra activities on top of your usual routines. While many find this time of year to be filled with joy and love, it can also be emotionally challenging for others.

Christmas is only days away and I am so tired.

Unlike previous years, I am not taking any extra time off so I am only getting the official holidays provided by my workplace. This is for two reasons: I used the majority of my vacation hours back in November for the family trip, and I’m trying to accrue as many new hours as possible so I can use them towards the end of January before our second son is born.

Working all day, trying to doing at least some holiday stuff during the few hours available in the evenings while playing with our toddler, finding gifts for everyone while staying in budget, sending out cards (very late), trying to make holiday desserts, and whipping together a last-minute wiseman outfit for Peanut for this Sabbath’s special Christmas program — it is not easy.

I now understand why some people get holiday burnout.

But as much fun (or stressful, depending on your experience!) as the holidays can be, I always try to take time away from the hustle and bustle. Quiet time to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Because He is the promised Messiah, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. He left heaven to come to earth, taking on our humanity so that He would share in our trials, all to save us from our sins. (Philippians 2:8-10) Through His perfect life and willing sacrifice, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10).

Why? Because God loves us— loves you!— that much. So no matter what you are going through, whether you are worn out or stressed or sad or lonely, always remember that God is with you. That, after all, is one of the titles of Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And that, my friend, is worth celebrating! That is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that night so long ago.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: John 14:27

His Encouragement: John 14:27

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27, ESV

Some weeks are hard to get through.

I admit it. I have had a very hard two weeks now. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, was recovering from a week long (but nice) trip that required an uncomfortable two-day car drive there and then back again, my sleep has been severely interrupted for a number of reasons, my body was aching something terrible, I was low on my vitamins and iron, I was not eating properly, work is becoming increasingly stressful, and our finances are tighter than I am comfortable with.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I broke down and cried twice in just the last week. And I do not cry easily. One or two or even three things I could handle but it seemed as if everything was happening all at once. As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours.

Perhaps you, too, are going through some challenges right now. Maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances and feeling anxious for the future. Come. Let us read John 14:27 together. In it, our Lord Jesus gives us an important promise that we both need to hear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…”

Especially during times of troubles or chaos, we need this gentle reminder. The Lord loves us so much and He offers us a peace that surpasses earthly understanding (Philippians 4:7). A deep, reassuring peace that calms our worries and gives us the strength (His strength!) to face the challenges of life. That is why we can “…let not [our] hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That does not mean it is easy. There are times, like the last two weeks, where I struggle! Really struggle. Sometimes I try to do it all myself and forget to let go and let God. I need to be reminded to turn to the Lord. After all, He wants us to come to Him with our troubles, our worries, our burdens. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small or insignificant for His attention either.

How comforting it is to realize that we don’t have to go it alone.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

Happy Thursday, dear friends! Welcome to His Encouragement. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse of encouragement as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts become an encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” — Psalm 147:3, ESV

There have been a lot of tragic events in recent days, weeks, and months both here at home and also around the globe. Throughout the Gospels but especially in Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus warned us that there will be times of great trouble and His followers will experience great challenges. However, it is one thing to read about what might happen in the future or hear about trouble happening in far-away places. It can be jarring when we see such trouble starting to take place around us, effecting our immediate communities and our families.

How do we cope with the tsunami of emotions that such traumatic events bring? Immense sadness at the loss of life, righteous anger at the evil behind it, and perhaps even fear and anxiety. If you are feeling any of these emotions or notice members of your family, especially children, trying to process the evil and sad events that are happening more and more frequently, do not try to walk this road alone.

First and foremost, take your all of your concerns and anxieties to the Lord in earnest prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “…cast all your anxieties on him [God], because he cares for you.” Bear your heart to Him and let Him take your burdens and fears away. Because “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) No matter what is happening, remember that God promises to “heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds“.

Claim that promise and hold on to it. Take comfort in the knowledge that this broken, sin-filled world is not our home and one day evil will be completely and utterly vanquished. Until then, as the psalmist wrote: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…” (Psalm 37:3)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

The idea of a heavenly home

The idea of a heavenly home

The title of this blog is A Heavenly Home, and I chose this name because of the hope and inspiration that it gives. If we are all honest with ourselves, I am certain that each one of us desires to have a warm, loving home that resembles a small piece of heaven on earth.

In our hectic, busy modern world, such an ideal home environment can seem hard — maybe even impossible — to achieve. Sometimes our best laid plans go awry or life circumstances force us to be flexible in ways we had not intended.

Our home is no different.

Is our house always tidy? No.

Do we have more clutter than we should? Yes.

Do we always put away our clean laundry? No.

Do dishes sometimes pile up in the sink? Yes.

Does our home look like a glossy magazine spread or a bright photo op on a fancy home blog? Absolutely not.

At the moment, I work full time outside the home with some freelancing on the side while my husband stays home with our one-year-old son. This was not our original plan, but it is where we find ourselves at this time. My amazing husband keeps our household running by not only caring for our son but also taking on a large share of domestic duties, including but not limited to laundry, vacuuming, tidying, yard work, taking care of the aging dog, etc. I appreciate everything he does so I try to pitch in and ease his burdens when I can.

We had a fairly good system working for us before we discovered I was pregnant with Baby #2 back in May and the first trimester all-day-every-day sickness struck. Around the same time, our little Peanut began to teethe… badly. Everything quickly dissolved into barely manageable chaos. For a little while there, it was a struggle. Then we realized that stage of our life was merely temporary, and it was ok to let the less important things slide for awhile.

Do not misunderstand. I do believe having a clean and tidy home tends to make the home more inviting and is more nurturing for those who live there.

However, the physical house is only part of what makes a home feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. To create a home that is a welcomed retreat from the cares of the outside world, warm and inviting, you need more than simply clean rooms.

A heavenly home is built on love, courtesy towards those who live with you, quality time spent together, and laughter.

My natural tendency at times would be to stare at the three days’ worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink and feel like a failure for being too exhausted (and sick!) to do them. There were times I had to remind myself: “At this moment, cuddling with my little son who is crying for “Mama” because a new tooth is working its painful way through his gum is far more important than some dirty dishes.”

When times became challenging, we chose to focus on what is most important. For our little family it was spending time together as a couple, spending time with our son, and doing what was best for our health. For me that also meant extra sleep!

Since then, things have begun to even out again. (Praise the Lord!) I am no longer feeling sick, and my energy has returned to normal. We are now in a place where we have a handle on the weekly housekeeping duties again and can also re-start some of the projects we had to put on hold for those couple of months, such as what I like to call “the big purge”. (More on this later.)

A clean house is important for physical health and a tidy house is good for mental health, but never forget that what truly transforms a house into a home is the people who live there and the atmosphere you cultivate.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 2:3-4, ESV

Our home and family is built on the love of Christ. If we keep Christ as our focus and His love in our hearts, everything else falls into its proper place. Our home becomes a warm, inviting, nurturing place full of the most important riches: love, selfless service, and grace. We know what is most important and are able to be flexible when circumstances change.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore a little bit more into the idea of a heavenly home and share some of our plans for improvement.

Join the discussion

What does your home look like? What does a heavenly home mean to you? In what areas do you need improvement?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.